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Comments: Week of July 14, 2008

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1. Sam Anderson’s analysis of Barack Obama’s rhetoric (Raise High the Rafters,” June 30) reopened the floodgates of Obama-bashing on nymag.com, as the nonbelievers hurled their familiar critiques—empty suit, mediocrity, symbol without substance. It also elicited a letter from novelist Michael Chabon, who objected to Anderson’s suggestion that he became an Obama supporter “after reading a particularly impressive turn of phrase in the senator’s second book.” Chabon wrote, in part: “The dwelled-upon phrase—‘a twining of darkness and light’—is not held up for praise because of its rhetorical unexpectedness or stylistic grace. Nor is either of those qualities offered as a reason, substantive or silly, for anyone’s throwing his or her wholehearted support behind Obama or any other candidate. What struck me so forcefully about the passage from The Audacity of Hope in which the line occurs (a passage describing the author’s powerful sense, on taking the senatorial oath of office as a black man at a ceremony presided over by former Klansman and Dixiecrat Robert Byrd, of the rich ambiguities of American history) is not, or is not only, the quality of the writing itself. It was the complex mind, the dialectical equipoise, that the prose style revealed.”

2. Of all the things that divide New Yorkers, one wouldn’t have necessarily put bicycles near the top of the list. But that’s where they belong—if the response to our stories about memorials to killed cyclists (Ghost Riders,” June 23) and competing park activities (Who Owns Central Park?,” June 30) is any indication. Yes, for every hard-core bike lover in the city, there is an equally dedicated bike hater. “What about memorials for the pedestrians who are killed and injured by reckless, arrogant, self-centered cyclists?” asked one reader on nymag.com. In subsequent comments, bicyclists were called all sorts of names, and more than one reader opined that bikers who don’t wear helmets more or less deserve whatever they get. The bikers struck back in kind. The lawyer for Craig Murphey’s parents sent a letter explaining that an investigation has failed to show that Murphey was doing anything reckless or illegal when struck and killed by a truck in Williamsburg. A reader on nymag.com asserted that “if given the choice, I’d rather get hit by a bike than a garbage truck,” prompting this bit of engineering analysis: “Being hit by a bike traveling at 20 mph with a 150-pound rider is the equivalent of being struck by a small car traveling at approximately half that speed.” Well, okay, but still not a garbage truck! Most of these sentiments were re-aired in the Central Park comments, with clarifications about maximum speeds of bikes in the park (40 mph? Not even close!). One reader shared the memory of her mother, who, when walking her dog in the park, carried a ski pole to ward off cyclists. And we’ll leave the last word to this: “You know who’s really to blame in Central Park? Squirrels. Those crazy fuckers dart right out like they own the park.”


3. Okay, so if it’s not the bicyclists who are ruining this town, it must be the warm-weather anarchists who camp out in St. Marks Place (and were the subject of Alex Morris’s Punk Like Them,” June 30). “What’s incredibly sad about these kids is that they’re romanticizing extremely dangerous substance abuse,” wrote one reader. Condescension reigned, as in this typical remark: “Good luck making it past this phase of your life, kids.” One reader broke the news to Suvy, one of the kids in the story, that his role model, Jorge, the singer of the fabled punkers the Casualties, “used to work at Tower Records. That’s right, Suvy, your hero was a bona fide yuppie working for the man!”

4. In Hugo Lindgren’s profile of hedge-fund manager David Einhorn (The Confidence Man,” June 23), Einhorn’s wife, Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, was described as having “mysteriously” lost her job after then–New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer announced he would investigate her husband. Richard Rescigno, the managing editor of Barron’s, wrote in to contest that characterization. “The clear implication is that, somehow, Barron’s came under pressure to dismiss her to retaliate against Mr. Einhorn. Nothing can be further from the truth. Cheryl and two other editorial-staff members were simply victims of budget cuts … in the spring of 2002, as our parent company, Dow Jones, struggled to overcome the effects of the deep economic decline that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

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